Campaigning in cyberspace

WASHINGTON (10/28/2003) - Next week, Americans will have an opportunity to question the Democratic presidential hopefuls online on issues ranging from Iraq rebuilding to the environment--or anything else on their minds.

For four days beginning November 4, the online forum "Conversation with the Candidates" will offer a series of live Web discussions with one candidate at a time. Netizens can submit their questions for up to 60 minutes. A moderator from the Washington Post will choose the questions to submit to the candidates. All the declared candidates except retired Gen. Wesley Clark have agreed to participate in the forum.

Eye on Cybervoters

"For most Americans, this may be the only opportunity to ask questions of the top candidates running for president," says Christopher Schroeder, chief executive officer of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, which is hosting the forum with the Concord Monitor, the newspaper of New Hampshire's capital. "We believe that using the Internet in this unique way will create a broader understanding of the critical issues of this campaign," Schroeder says.

The online crowd has proven to be a viable demographic, says Dag Vega, a spokesperson for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

"We're aggressively going after cyberactive voters in this campaign," Vega says. It's a priority for Kerry to connect with the virtual political community, Vega adds. "The online voters are engaged and they've proven they can make a difference in nominating a Democrat and the next president of the United States."

Washingtonpost.com has hosted similar forums in the past, featuring President Bush and former President Bill Clinton. The site logs an average of 6 million unique visitors daily.

Where and When

The tentative schedules for the candidates' forums are:

Tuesday, November 4: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio)

Wednesday, November 5: Rev. Al Sharpton

Thursday, November 6: Former ambassador Carol Moseley Braun

Friday, November 7: Sen. John F. Kerry

Exact times will be posted on the Washingtonpost.com site.

Schedules for Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards (North Carolina), Rep. Richard Gephardt (Missouri), and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut) will be forthcoming.

The online forums will be posted on several sites. They include the Washington Post, as well as the Concord Monitor and a mirror site also maintained by the Monitor at http://www.primarymonitor.com/.

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